361. Marge’s Son Poisoning

(originally aired November 13, 2005)
It’s been a while since we had a Marge/Bart episode. The first since “Bart the Mother”? I think that’s right, but if not, who cares. At this point, the writers have forgotten how to write both characters, so the result is very awkward and strange. Marge buys a tandem bicycle hoping to ride with Homer, but of course he turns her down in favor of television. We’ve come a long way since “Duffless,” huh? Seeing his lonely mother biking by herself, Bart agrees to go with her, and it becomes their regular bonding activity, riding to a dainty shoppe for tea and cakes (for Bart, mainly cakes). It’s a thin, boring premise with not much added to it, but at least I’m fine with the characterization so far. It isn’t long before the bullies poke at Bart for being a “momma’s boy,” leading him to explode at his mother and humiliate her (“Mom, I only hung out with you because I felt sorry for you!”) I get he needs to shun Marge here, but he does it with such a level of scorn; it’s not just “stop mothering me so much,” it’s “I put up with you because you’re pathetic.” Why would he word it that way? How mean is that?

In the final act, the rift created between Marge and Bart starts getting mended. There’s a karaoke contest at the school, for some reason, and Bart suggests he and his mother do a duet. Something that would humiliate him further, but he’s only doing it because that’s what he thinks Marge wants. Then we see how their relationship has the risk of paralleling Skinner and his mother, as they are also performing, which makes absolutely no sense. Agnes doing karaoke? Forget it. Also, Skinner has become completely neutered at this point; he used to have some modicum of respect as Bart’s unofficial arch nemesis, now he’s just this sad, pathetic man who’s chained to his mother in every respect. Marge fears Bart will turn out like him, so he cuts the performance short (“Your job isn’t to worry about me, it’s to give me things to worry about.”) So the ending isn’t Bart apologizing for saying such hateful things to Marge, but Marge apologizing for Bart having to cheer her up. Huh? I get the idea of a mother not wanting to burden her children with her own problems, but it’s not like she unloaded on Bart; she was just having an bad day and Bart responded to it. So I don’t get it. But perhaps I should give up trying to understand some of these episodes.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Intolerable sequence where Homer gleefully hijacks a bumper car as the track is being dismantled and driving it onto the street. Homer being that giddy sets up warning flags for me; he’s a hell of a lot funnier when he’s a dogged everyman, not an infantile maniac.
– There’s a kind-of B-story involving Homer taking up arm wrestling, kind of. I like the idea of him just bulking up one arm with his dumbbell, then moving on to the other one before Moe stops him, but beyond that, it’s just killing time, and has no bearing on anything. Though the scene of them attempting to bilk the Rich Texan is the only amusing scene of the episode (“A hundred bucks says he can whoop you in arm wrestling!” “A Texas penny it is!”)
– “Sweet Home Alabama” appears twice on this show’s soundtrack, with characters singing it, for reasons that escape me.
– The China Syndrome is a pretty good store name, as is the talking Krusty tea kettle (“Earl Gray? I’d rather have Lynda Gray! …is she still alive?”)
– We get a reference to the great film Midnight Cowboy, but it just feels very random. Marge takes a bus to Miami with the tandem bike, I guess representing her dead relationship with her son? Or something?
– The new type of “joke” with the bullies is to have them be knowledgeable or mindful of cultural or adult things, like Jimbo knowing about Frank Gehry, or here when they discuss the limitations of store credit. Then we end the episode with the three of them singing “My Sharona” outside the Simpson house for some reason, because that’s funny, I guess?

18 thoughts on “361. Marge’s Son Poisoning

      1. Yeah. As mentioned elsewhere in this website, hearing “SKINNER!!!” usually meant shit was about to hit the fan. When they decided to elevate Chalmers to recurring status, it pretty much became his catchphrase and lost the sting it used to have (the climax of “The Debarted” being the biggest exqmple of this for me).

  1. Great take on this episode Mike! Average episode, meh, confusing, yes, amusing, somewhat. I really hope the writers have a contest before the series ends, like a fan written episode but it might expose them for how crummy they write the latter episodes like this one, and someone would probably be doing it for free, so no dice on that idea I guess. At this point the series is trying to do a long run, maybe indefinite, like SNL it feels like, for some reason, but is running out of ideas, plots, and anything funny.

    1. A fan-written episode would still have to pass through the rewrite room. If they can condense the work of Ricky Gervais or Seth Rogen down to the level of typical Zombie Simpsons crap, I don’t at all doubt that a fanscript would suffer the same fate.

    2. The difference, though, is SNL gets new cast members every year, and some years an entire new cast, so things can remain at least somewhat fresh with the new faces to work with. Also, sketch comedy is very different from a sitcom. So, a show like SNL can go on indefinitely (though it’s had its own share of problems over the years), but it’s a lot harder something like The Simpsons to do the same.

      1. Exactly. And, unlike Matt Groening, Lorne Michaels actually works with the writers and cast members and at least tries to make SNL funny, which is why I hate/don’t get all those burns from The Simpsons about Lorne Michaels and SNL (though I do like the joke about Krusty the Clown being a bad host on Tuesday Night Live because I have seen episodes of SNL that suck because of how obnoxious/unfunny/inexperienced the host is). It’s a very “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” thing.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out jb! And indeed, a rewrite or edit would be needed, most likley. I think all of us here, mainly Mike, as well as a few other Simpsons fansites authors (like deadhomersocitey) could do a better job at writing for the series then the current writers btw, who are nothing but lazy, uncreative, uninspired hacks, but hey, that’s just my opinion. I like Seth and Ricky btw. Zombie Simpsons, not so much.

    1. I think they were trying to get back to titles like “Bart Gets Hit by a Car” or “Homer’s Triple Bypass” instead of all the pun-ny titles they’ve been doing for season after season. Unfortunately, this title just sounds bad.

  3. I originally thought I had just skipped this entire season except bits from the recaps here sound familiar, so I guess I did watch at least some of these during their original run. Amazing how the show had become so non-impacting.

  4. A pretty pathetic episode that I wish I could forget like I tend to do with most of this season. Still, it isn’t as degrading as “Bonfire of the Manatees” or as insulting as “Homer’s Paternity Coot,” so I guess it could be a whole hell lot worse.

    I have to agree about the ending coming out of nowhere though. Also, it doesn’t make sense considering we know this Skinner is not the real Skinner.

    1. Well, you might recall that Sgt. Skinner was a more independent and well-adjusted man, but we cannot have major upheavals to our status quo, so let’s run this independent, well-adjusted man out of town and put that meek, whipped man back into the position of Seymour Skinner and retcon away any traces of Sgt. Skinner’s existence, even for his own mother, who prefers a son whom she can boss over to one who knows he’s a grown-up and cannot be at her beck and call all the time.

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